By Jennifer Leonard
If you brewed your morning cup of Joe in a Keurig coffee maker, you may want to thank T.O. Epps, president of T.O. Epps & Associates, a West Chester-based firm that specializes in bringing products to QVC. He introduced Keurig to the retailer in 2005, and they’ve now sold more than 3.5 million brewers.
“It’s a great success,” says Epps, adding that the product’s demonstrability was key. “QVC brings the art of demonstration and a story. You want to make the customer say, ‘Wow!’”
Epps first started pitching products to QVC more than 33 years ago, just months after the retailer launched on America’s airwaves. He was immediately impressed with their unique selling approach.
“In the early days, it was so refreshing [the way] they took the relationship to the consumer so seriously,” he says. “It’s based on trust, and they really worked on it.”
Since 1999, Epps has been working with QVC exclusively and finds new vendors at trade shows, by word-of-mouth and via his company’s website, bringing 220 new products to QVC’s platforms last year alone.
Even QVC refers new vendors to Epps to prepare them for striking a deal. “Sometimes smaller vendors aren’t familiar enough with the process to do it at a high level with QVC,” says Epps. “We teach them.”
What does he look for first in a new product? “When it comes to vendors, big and small, the key is innovation,” says Epps, explaining that often entrepreneurs are solving a demand that consumers don’t know exists yet.
He adds that exclusivity it also vital: “The product can’t be the same as what is in stores like Walmart or Costco. So, you differentiate by bundling, or offering a new scent or flavor exclusive to QVC.”
In addition to Keurig, Epps has worked with Bethlehem Lights, known for their flameless candles and seasonal décor, and Nautilus exercise equipment, which includes Schwinn and Bowflex.
One hard sell, perhaps unsurprisingly, was PooPourri. Epps says: “QVC was very reluctant, because demonstration is so important. But it was a success. They’ve now been doing business [together] for 10 to 15 years.”
It all goes back to trust. “My company quickly understands if a product will be successful or not. We don’t waste time,” says Epps. “When we go [to pitch], QVC knows they can buy and move forward.”
Find out more about T.O.to Epps at toepps.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Leonard is a writer at VISTA Today, specializing in retail and consumer marketing. A West Goshen resident, Jennifer has 20 years of experience as a full-time editor and writer for magazines including Woman’s World, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen. Jennifer is available at email@example.com.
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